Hatshepsut

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Hatshepsut ruled over ancient Egypt as the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty. Her reign lasted more than any other female Pharaoh—twenty years—and Egyptologists consider her one of the most successful pharaohs, male or female. Her name means the Foremost of Noble Ladies.

Royal women enjoyed high status and considerable power in ancient Egypt, for it was in their bodies that the royal bloodline resided, even still though it was uncommon for a woman to be the ruler in her own right. However, Hatshepsut was not the first female Pharaoh, there were at least two more before her, most notably Sobekneferu, who was the last ruler of the Twelfth Dynasty, six dynasties prior to Hatshepsut.

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Hatshepsut’s rule over Egypt began a long prosperous and peaceful era for this ancient civilization, and being immortalized as a sphinx, which is the quintessential symbol of the divine and royal power of the Pharoahs, demonstrates just how remarkable this queen was. Unlike most rulers of ancient Egypt, she focused on economic prosperity as opposed to warfare and expansion, which as we will see in later day female rulers, seems to be the norm with respect to women.

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Under her reign ancient Egypt re-established trade with other regions of the world. and Hatshepsut was responsible for the construction of hundreds of buildings and other structures throughout Egypt a time of unparalleled prosperity in a world that had recently known nothing but the turmoil of war and strife.  Even today, almost every museum in the world contains some statuary built by her, so profilic was she in building.

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The fact is in the ancient world there was no sure way to determine the paternity of a child so it made sense to many cultures, in which purity of bloodline was of utmost importance, to be matrilineal.  But in Ancient Egypt the concept was taken to another level by the sister-brother-father-daughter-marriages of the Pharaohs.

It is surmised that the true inspiration for this was the fact that Osiris married his own sister Isis and the Pharaohs wished to emulate the gods, but he fact is if we look at the historical record we see that it is much more than that.  Childbirth was still not understood and because of it women were venerated to level unheard of today and in the descent of the Pharaohs through Isis and her son Horus this gave the royal women a very high status indeed.  A Pharaoh would marry his sister or even daughter to enhance his royal status because it was through the women that truly the royal bloodline derived from and in Hatshepsut we see a woman who decided that she was as worthy as any male to rule in her own right, which is exactly what she did for 20 years, usurping the throne from her stepson Thutmose III, for who she had been acting as regent until he reached manhood.

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What is interesting is that despite being the general in charge of the army, Thutmose III never challenged her throughout her 20-year reign. He did try unsuccessfully to have any record of her reign erased from history once he took power after her death, though not out of malevolence but in a misguided attempt to claim her accomplishments as his own.  In these accomplishments, this great queen puts to rest the idea that only males could rule empires.  Indeed, considering there were at least two other female Pharaohs before Hatshepsut who are in the archaeological record, how many others were there who may have been lost to the hands of time and the Patriarchy?

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